A new study of gamers has found that racing games, not shooters, provokes the highest level of aggression in players.
Simon Goodson and Sarah Pearson of the University of Huddersfield put 30 gamers through their paces on three separate Xbox 360 games, Project Gotham Racing, an unnamed FPS and a "3-D table tennis game," monitoring physiological changes such as breathing and heart rate as well as other factors related to aggression before and after each game. The researchers were surprised to find the greatest changes in heart rate and brain activity were actually brought about by Project Gotham Racing, while the shooter had the least effect on players.
"Previous researchers have made sweeping generalizations about the nature of videogames. This study is one of the first to use one of the latest games consoles that have a much higher level of realism," the pair said in a statement. "Surprisingly the results showed that the driving game made participants more agitated and aggressive than the game with graphic violence. Given the high levels of realism in modern games a re-evaluation of the relationship between videogames and violence is needed."
But is it really much of a shock? Or is it actually entirely unsurprising that driving games, with their strong connections to real-world activities that don't necessarily bring out the best in people, would trigger stronger autonomic responses than games completely rooted in the realm of fantasy? I for one have never battled marauding alien armies or hordes of the undead anywhere but in the comfort of my own home but when I'm behind the wheel on the highways of Toronto I turn into a screaming, bird-flipping, hate-spewing rage machine who'd as soon kill you as double-check his blind spot, and that's very much reflected in my game playing.
Goodson and Pearson plan to present their findings at the British Psychological Society Annual Conference, which begins today.